A fraction of the prom dress selection at Sisters Bridal and Tux. (Lana Braun)
A fraction of the prom dress selection at Sisters Bridal and Tux.

Lana Braun

PROMising purchase

Prom is an iconic event in many high schools across the nation, and picking the perfect dress can set the scene for the entire night.

January 12, 2023

Imagine you are a dress, vacuum sealed in plastic, shoved into a cardboard box with other dresses, and being shipped from someplace in China to a small town in rural Minnesota. This is the case for many prom dresses all over the country.

Display of the new year’s themed prom dresses at Sisters Bridal and Tux. (Lana Braun)

Sisters Bridal and Tux located in New Ulm Minnesota is one of the many formal wear shops that have to go through this process of buying and selling prom dresses every year. Sisters Bridal is owned by two sisters; Kelly Murphy and Sandy Portner-Quiring.

Prom dresses have a long process to go through before they are in the hands of a customer who will attend the annual night of prom, which many people do not think of before they go shopping for dresses.

First, only a couple of months after the previous year’s prom, store owners usually attend a runway show containing the designer’s styles for the next season, some of these shows taking place in cities as large as Atlanta, Georgia. While at these shows store owners must place their orders for the next season while still at the event.

“As a store owner It is hard to decide which dresses to buy and what not to buy because we don’t know what girls are going to be liking this year, but we want to have the dresses delivered before people start shopping,” said co-owner Sandy Portner-Quiring.

Once a dress is ordered it could take anywhere from two weeks to 6 months for the dress to be delivered to its location. This is an extremely large range of dates, and also makes it tricky to know how many dresses to buy for the upcoming season because if you get too many you lose money, but if you don’t buy enough you could lose potential customers due to a lack of selection.

“I’d say as of right now we have 600+ dresses in store and many more still being shipped that will be here in time for prime prom dress shopping season,” said store manager Jenny Struiksma.

Once a package of dresses is delivered they must be unbagged and all of them must be steamed. Someone who is experienced in steaming dresses can get one steamed in 3-7 minutes, which does not seem like a long time but when you have 10-15 dresses to do the minutes add up.

Dresses also need to be tagged so that the customer knows the color and size as well as the price; tags also have other color options and sizes as well in case a shopper would like to order that dress but in a different color or size.

Inside look at the window display at Sisters Bridal and Tux. (Lana Braun)

Once these steps are completed the dress is put on the floor for shoppers to see. Before trying on a dress a shopper must clarify which prom they are attending, because Sisters Bridal, as well as many other stores across the country, do not sell the same dress to the same event.

This means that if someone has already bought a dress for their prom, another person cannot buy that same dress for the same prom if they are shopping at the same store.

Once a shopper has decided on a dress they fill out an information sheet, so the store can keep track of who bought what. Then the employee must bag the dress in a fabric garment bag that protects the dress from getting dirty during the ride home. Finally comes the payment process where the customer pays for their dress and gets to bring it home.

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